Pro-Life Cougars v. University of Houston

From October 2001 to March 2003
University of Houston (Public college or university)
Houston, TX, United States

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration changed university policy as a consequence
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Pro-Life Cougars is a registered student organization at the University of Houston. In October 2001, it applied for a permit to display a “Justice for All Exhibit” in Butler Plaza, a high-traffic pedestrian area located in the center of the university’s main campus. The exhibit advocated a viewpoint on abortion and related issues. The dean of students denied the permit after determining the event was “potentially disruptive.” Under the university’s policy on expressive student activity, proposed events deemed potentially disruptive by the dean of students could not be held in Butler Plaza.

Pro-Life Cougars filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas against various university administrators and the university, contending that the policy violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court preliminarily enjoined university officials from enforcing the policy. The university then adopted a successor policy banning all student expressive activity on Butler Plaza, and it appealed the preliminary injunction.

During the pendency of the appeal, the district court granted partial summary judgment on March 13, 2003, declaring the first policy unconstitutional. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit subsequently dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction.